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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 511

Papers of the Nolen-Schatte family, 1886-1990 (inclusive), 1886-1954 (bulk)


Papers of city planner and landscape architect John Nolen, his wife, Barbara Schatte Nolen, and their children.


  • Creation: 1886-1990
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1886-1954

Language of Materials

Materials in English.


Access. Unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the director of the Schlesinger Library before publishing quotations from materials in the collection.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures, except that folders #1.2 and 1.3 may not be photocopied.


10.05 linear feet ((19 + 1/2 file boxes, 2 folio boxes) plus 1 supersize folder, 5 objects, 1 photograph folder)

The collection contains correspondence, household account books, accounts of childhood illnesses, scrapbooks, a copy book, etc., relating to two generations of the Nolen and Schatte families. Folder titles were created by Barbara Nolen Strong; information in brackets was added by the processor. The collection is divided into three series.

Series I, Biographical and Personal, 1892-1990 (#1.1-1.9, 20.1v, 21.1v-21.2, 22.1v), includes biographical clippings, Nolen and Schatte family histories, an account of childhood illness, scrapbooks, household account books, Barbara (Schatte) Nolen’s diploma and teacher’s certificate, and a copy book. The account of childhood illness chronicles Barbara (Nolen) Strong’s bout of pneumonia in 1904, when she was 15 months old. There is a written account of her symptoms and treatments, as well as a ledger-like tracking of her temperature, pulse, respiratory rate, medicine, and urinary and bowel movements. The three scrapbooks contain clippings, programs, menus, photographs, etc., documenting John Nolen’s education, in particular at Girard College and the Wharton School of Business; lectures and concerts attended by John and Barbara (Schatte) Nolen; and John and Barbara Nolen’s wedding trip to Europe. Folders are arranged with the biographical clippings first, followed by the Nolen and Schatte family histories, and the remaining items in chronological order.

Series II, Correspondence, 1889-1954 (#1.10-19.5, 21.3v), contains a series of numbered “bundles” that were identified by Barbara Nolen Strong. The arrangement is roughly chronological and begins with letters between John Nolen and Barbara (Schatte) Nolen, followed by correspondence among John Nolen and Barbara Schatte and their children, and letters to John Nolen and Barbara (Schatte) Nolen from friends. Folder #1.10 contains Barbara (Nolen) Strong’s inventory of the collection, especially the correspondence “bundles,” which provides biographical information about many of the correspondents. The letters document life in Philadelphia in the late 1800s, including detailed accounts of lectures the Nolens' attended. There are also several letters from John Nolen describing his summer work as supervisor of Onteora Park, a resort in the Catskills. Beginning in 1894, the letters evolve from those between friends to courtship letters, and an engagement announcement was issued in October. Letters of congratulations on their engagement were pasted into a scrapbook and can be found in #21.3v and #3.4-3.5. Correspondence between John Nolen and Barbara (Schatte) Nolen following their marriage in 1896 includes descriptions of their children’s activities; news from friends and family; accounts of John’s education, his European travel, and his work as a city planner; and general accounts of their daily activities. Correspondence with the children includes details of family members' lives and plans to visit each other. Letters from friends contain news about their families, common friends, and accounts of events the Nolens' might have enjoyed.

Series III, Photographs, ca.1893-ca.1954 (#PD1), contains photographs removed from Series I and II.


John Nolen, son of John Christopher and Mathilda (Thomas) Nolen, was born June 14, 1869 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father was killed shortly after John's birth and when John was nine, his mother remarried. At that point, John was accepted at Girard College, a boys' school for orphans. Following his graduation in 1884, John worked at the Girard Estate for six years, earning money to attend the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School (Ph.B., 1893). During the summers from 1892 to 1894, he was superintendent of Onteora Park, a resort in the Catskill Mountains for people interested in drama, art, and music. From 1893 to 1903, he was secretary of the American Society for the Extension of University Teaching. In 1903, he enrolled in the School of Landscape Architecture at Harvard University (A.M., 1905). Over the next 30 years, he and his associates handled over 400 public planning projects and works of landscape architecture. Included in these projects was the planning and development of 50 cities, including Kingsport, Tennessee, and Mariemont, Ohio. He served as president of the American City Planning Institute, the National Conference on City Planning, and the International Federation for Housing and Town Planning, and was an honorary member of the Town Planning Institute of England. He died of cancer on February 18, 1937.

Mary Ann Barbara (Schatte) Nolen, daughter of Gustav Emil and Louisa (Conrad) Schatte, was born February 13, 1872, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Called Barbara, she was the youngest of four children, and she maintained close relationships with her siblings, Conrad Schatte (January 15, 1864-November 30, 1915), Marie Humphrey (December 1, 1864-July 2, 1924), and Emma Zesinger (March 28, 1868-December 24, 1922). Gustav Emil died of typhoid and pneumonia May 2, 1872. Five years later, Louisa fell ill with tuberculosis and died January 20, 1879, after several months at the Episcopal Hospital. On November 15, 1877, Conrad was sent to live with an aunt, and Marie, Emma, and Barbara were admitted to the Episcopal Church Home for Children. Family friends, Effingham and Mary Elena (Burroughs) Perot, took in the three girls, who called them "stern guardian" and "Bonnie." Barbara graduated from the Girls' Normal School in Philadelphia, Pennslyvania in June 1891. She taught at the James Forten Public School, a primary school in Philadelphia designed to serve a slum neighborhood, from 1891 to 1894. She died December 10, 1954.

John Nolen and Barbara Schatte met in 1889 at a meeting of a Sunday reading group hosted by Mrs. Perot. They were engaged in October 1894 and were married April 22, 1896. They had four children, John "Jack" Nolen, Jr., Barbara Nolen Strong, Edward "Ted" Schatte Nolen, and Humphrey Nolen. Jack, born February 28, 1898, graduated from MIT with a degree in civil engineering in 1920 and pursued a 40-year career in urban planning, spent mainly as Director of the National Capital Planning Commission in Washington, D.C. Barbara, born December 19, 1902, graduated from Smith College in 1924 and pursued a career in children's book publishing. Ted, born February 11, 1905, was a construction engineer with the National Broadcasting Corporation. Humphrey, born September 2, 1911, was employed by Draper and Company, a woolen business.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 90-M180

These papers were given to the Schlesinger Library by Barbara Nolen Strong in October 1990.

Processing Information

Processed: January 2005

By: Johanna Carll

Nolen family. Papers of the Nolen-Schatte family, 1886-1990 (inclusive), 1886-1954 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by a gift from Mary and Michael Gellert.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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